Linger Like Bright Light

I’m not much for multi-tasking. I’m no good at tweeting (or doing much of anything) in the middle of spoken conversation. When there are preparations to be made and sick little ones to care for and people to catch up with and celebrations to attend, I find myself spending all my words in person with not much left for the page or screen. Our Christmas ended just yesterday as my brother and his family flew back to the southwest and my husband started back to work. I’m just now thinking back on it…all these little memories that linger like the outline of bright light when you look away.

It’s been a season full of…marveling at the sparkle ~ snuggling ~ watching trains go by ~ sipping hot chocolate ~ strolling through town ~ finding lost sheep ~ anticipating Jesus ~ reading beneath the light of the tree ~ gathering the members of the Nativity scene and waiting along with them ~ growing a baby ~ singing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” ~ bowing low and looking up ~ spreading joy with beginner spelling: “grama, it is oomost Crismis.” ~ shopping for the perfect gifts ~ celebrating with a classroom full of kindergarteners ~ naughty ~ rare moments of quiet ~ togetherness ~ filling stockings (and emptying puke buckets) ~ fattening up with biscuits and homemade apple butter after two different rounds of the tummy bug ~ roughhousing ~ sweet times with faraway family come near ~ cuddling with the newest cousin ~ building a snowman his own way ~ hosting a houseful of family for a New Year’s sleepover…and even getting a few hours of sleep.

What are some of the highlights from your holiday season?

Fragile Fingers Sent to Heal Us {plus giveaway winners}

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, our Kindergartener wailed until we woke and rushed to his room, our eyes squinting at the sight of vomit-covered carpet. For more than an hour, we bent ourselves over the mess and comforted him in his sickness, a repeat of what he’d had over Thanksgiving. While I sleepwalked back and forth between bedroom and sink and washing machine, I thought of the parents in Newton, sleepless, grieving. I thought of the public servants who found themselves in the middle of the night bending over the most difficult of tasks at the crime scene.

Tears are falling
Hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God

So many Christmases, I’ve sung those words by heart, a homily for myself. Last year, I sang them in the church where I grew up, the congregation squeezed tight in pews. Grace notes ventured out into the space of empty aisles, the space above our heads where wood beams lined the vaulted ceiling, the space between the way things were meant to be and the way they are. This was no ordinary Christmas Eve. It was one tainted by grief.

In the third row, surrounded by extended family, a mother younger than me (one I had babysat when I was a teen) sat next to her remaining child, the other buried just ten days earlier, the little girl’s life snuffed out by a gunman looking to steal a video game. The wider church family and community had cried for her, for them. I hadn’t prepared to sing this song in the presence of the bereaved. I eked out the next words through voice weakened by tears.

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world

Evil intrudes and challenges the tawdry cheer of Christmas. How can those in sorrow celebrate now with all those presents never to be unwrapped, with those empty beds where there should have been children with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads? In the grief of the Sandy Hook tragedy, some victims have turned off the Christmas lights, a picture of the darkness visited on them.

And to think that this is how Christ’s childhood began…with the dark of a stable, the shadow of an inhospitable world, the nightmare of evil acting out its schemes. Herod, another cold-blooded killer ordered the slaughter of every male child under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

But even there, a star, a spotlight on hope…enough to draw wise men to worship.

I close my eyes to go on, sing through the image of the young mother’s pale face, her eyes glossed over in the aftermath.

So wrap our injured flesh around you
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God

In those front rows, white-knuckled hands held out white candles waiting for someone to spark the first light. I looked at the grieving family and the community surrounding. Then I looked up. Over our heads and under the rafters, two wood beams filled the space between, beams of the cross…and light beaming out from behind.

Fragile fingers sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born

Welcome to our world.

{How has the event in Newtown affected you this week? How has it (or other tragedies in this season) changed your view of Christmas?}

Welcome to those of you visiting from my friend Sheila’s blog, The Deliberate Reader, where I’m sharing today about my favorite books of hope and redemption, stories that help me rise from grief and fear. Maybe these will help you through your own difficult season, give you glimpses of glory, foreshadowing in the shadows.

Giveaway Winner(s): In view of the precious lives lost last week, our giveaway is even more poignant, encouraging us to tell the life-giving story of Jesus, Prince of Peace, that the generation to come might know and follow Him and be a blessing in a broken world. Chosen at random from 17 eligible comments, our winner of Carrie Ward’s “Together: Growing Appetites for God” is Ali with comment #8! I will be contacting you to get your address so that Moody Publishers can send the book your way. And because there were so many of you interested in this topic, I’ve decided to give away my marked up copy as well. Our second winner is Athena Miles with comment #3. Thank you all for participating and sharing your insights.

Title and lyrics quoted from Chris Rice’s “Welcome to Our World.”

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What the Children Are Saying

With a weathered spoon, I am chasing bubbles in boiling oatmeal when my three-year-old stampedes down the wooden stairs, shouting out with the tree in his sights.

“Shh!” I shake my head, “Your sister’s still sleeping.”

It’s a ruckus when he’s in the room. The ancient quote is running through my brain now, Plato’s words telling me to lighten up:  “A boy is, of all wild beasts, the most difficult to manage.”

A little click and seven-hundred sparkles come on and make the place a little brighter, the bulbs on the tree teaming up with the morning sunlight that stretches down through the gray clouds into our windows.

On the shelf, painted porcelain people and barnyard animals gather around. My loud little boy fits right in with the rowdy crowd of the Bethlehem stable. He scuttles over to the unfinished nativity and reaches out to the wooden box next to it, the one with all the tiny doors hiding little Christmas secrets. Our Baby Jesus figurine waits in a cubby.

I stand with a kitchen towel in hand and wait for him to open the adjacent door where the figurine will sit for the day, another 24 hours closer to Christmas. But instead he looks at me and opens his mouth to speak.

“Jesus growed down into a baby,” he tells me as he lays eyes on the tiny form.

I marvel to hear it spoken so freshly in the words of a child and I marvel again that the Word who’s big enough to create the world and the sun that it revolves around and the planets that move with it and all that is beyond, that the grand, king-sized Word became so small that He had to use baby talk. He “growed down”. The incorrect grammar says it right. I stop a minute to savor the unedited words, keeping all these things in my heart, my son experiencing Mary’s son, the only begotten of God the Father.

Elliot slides his thumb over the swaddling clothes and adds to the sentence, “And then he growed up into a man.” It’s something to tuck away and so I grab the nearest pen to jot down his words under that December date in my journal. But he isn’t finished. He’s getting to the sad part.

“Then His heart wasn’t beating anymore,” he says.

For a while, I had wondered if my son were too young to know the full story yet. I had timidly read to him of the lashes, the spit, the hatred, the cross, and watched him furrow his own eyebrows at the painting of the thorny crown on Jesus’ head, the Baby King all grown up into a dying man.

Is this all that life comes down to…death? I blot my eyes with that kitchen towel. I am afraid for him to figure out that he too will die one day. And maybe I’m afraid to face it myself, forgetting to meditate on the hope that softens the sting.

Next thing I know, he speaks aloud that hope to me, so simple I can’t argue with it. “Then it was beating again,” he says. Not for pretend. Not a metaphor. His actual heart beating again. And so will ours because of Him.

“What next?” I prod him on, wondering at the words he’ll choose, this whole new person relating to his Creator.

“Then God pulled Him up to heaven with his REALLY long arms!” This boy is jumping for joy, reaching high.

I can almost feel those long arms now, God reaching down to here, calling forth His praise from the lips of a child right under my roof. The Savior, meek and mild, has lassoed my little boy with His story…and I am shushed.

Kneeling down, I put my arms around Elliot to give him a squeeze. Then, he opens the door to the new day and stows Jesus away.

We fetch little sister and all bow our heads to thank God for our pot of oatmeal and for the food trough bed where Jesus laid His head. I pray first and then Elliot interrupts. It’s his spiritual gift. “God, I know you have Jesus right now and He is coming to pick us up in a minute.”

We move the Christ child from cubby to cubby, from day to day, and wait not so patiently for Christmas when we celebrate Jesus’ first advent. And even greater, when we log another day in the history books, we’re that much closer to His second advent. We are hungering for more than this season can hold. I can tell it. We haven’t even had our breakfast and already this little one has preached me the whole Gospel.

(Luke 2:19, John 1:1-5,14, Matthew 21:16)

Reposted from the archives

The Grow-Down Gospel

With a weathered spoon, I am chasing bubbles in the boiling oatmeal when my three-year-old stampedes down the wooden stairs, shouting out with the tree in his sights.

“Shh!” I shake my head, “Your sister’s still sleeping.”

It’s a ruckus when he’s in the room. The ancient quote is running through my brain now, Plato’s words telling me to lighten up:  “A boy is, of all wild beasts, the most difficult to manage.”

A little click and seven-hundred sparkles come on and make the place a little brighter, the bulbs on the tree teaming up with the morning sunlight that stretches down through the gray clouds into our windows.

On the shelf, painted porcelain people and barnyard animals gather around. My loud little boy fits right in with the rowdy crowd of the Bethlehem stable. He scuttles over to the unfinished nativity and reaches out to the wooden box next to it, the one with all the tiny doors hiding little Christmas secrets. Our Baby Jesus figurine waits in a cubby.

I stand with a kitchen towel in hand and wait for him to open the adjacent door where the figurine will sit for the day, another 24 hours closer to Christmas. But instead he looks at me and opens his mouth to speak.

“Jesus growed down into a baby,” he tells me as he lays eyes on the tiny form.

I marvel to hear it spoken so freshly in the words of a child and I marvel again that the Word who’s big enough to create the world and the sun that it revolves around and the planets that move with it and all that is beyond, that the grand, king-sized Word became so small that He had to use baby talk. He “growed down”. The incorrect grammar says it right. I stop a minute to savor the unedited words, keeping all these things in my heart, my son experiencing Mary’s son, the only begotten of God the Father.

Elliot slides his thumb over the swaddling clothes and adds to the sentence, “And then he growed up into a man.” It’s something to tuck away and so I grab the nearest pen to jot down his words under that December date in my journal. But he isn’t finished. He’s getting to the sad part.

“Then His heart wasn’t beating anymore,” he says.

For a while, I had wondered if Elliot were too young to know the full story yet. I had timidly read to him of the lashes, the spit, the hatred, the cross, and watched him furrow his own eyebrows at the painting of the thorny crown on Jesus’ head, the Baby King all grown up into a dying man.

Is this all that life comes down to…death? I blot my eyes with that kitchen towel. I am afraid for him to figure out that he too will die one day. And maybe I’m afraid to face it myself, forgetting to meditate on the hope that softens the sting.

Next thing I know, he speaks aloud that hope to me, so simple I can’t argue with it. “Then it was beating again,” he says. Not for pretend. Not a metaphor. His actual heart beating again. And so will ours because of Him.

“What next?” I prod him on, wondering at the words he’ll choose, this whole new person relating to his Creator.

“Then God pulled Him up to heaven with his REALLY long arms!” This boy is jumping for joy, reaching high.

I can almost feel those long arms now, God reaching down to here, calling forth His praise from the lips of a child right under my roof. The Savior, meek and mild, has lassoed my little boy with His story…and I am shushed.

Kneeling down, I put my arms around Elliot to give him a squeeze. Then, he opens the door to the new day and stows Jesus away.

We fetch little sister and all bow our heads to thank God for our pot of oatmeal and for the food trough bed where Jesus laid His head. I pray first and then Elliot interrupts. It’s his spiritual gift. “God, I know you have Jesus right now and He is coming to pick us up in a minute.”

We move the Christ child from cubby to cubby, from day to day, and wait not so patiently for Christmas when we celebrate Jesus’ first advent. And even greater, when we log another day in the history books, we’re that much closer to His second advent. We are hungering for more than this season can hold. I can tell it. We haven’t even had our breakfast and already this little one has preached me the whole Gospel.

(Luke 2:19, John 1:1-5,14, Matthew 21:16)

A memory from Christmas past shared as part of The High Calling’s Advent Writing Project at Wide Open Spaces.